RV Information from Kampgrounds of America, Inc.

Co-Pilot: 101

Brent Peterson

Come on, you know who you are. Reclining away the miles as your spouse manhandles the motorhome. Blissfully asleep as she takes your fifth wheel up through steep, mountain grades, battles the elements, and looks for that obscure dirt road to find the campground. Your nose in a book as the driver fights their way to a course to the next destination on a never-ending, laugh-a-minute odyssey that is your RVing life. Well guess what? The free ride is up. It’s hard work over here to your left, and I think I speak for drivers everywhere when I say that we could use a little bit of help. So wake up, put down the detective novel, and grab an atlas – we’re putting you to work.

The following is a list of seven things you can do to assist your driving buddy. Faithfully executed, you will undoubtedly see her or his mood improve dramatically, make for a safer and easier journey, and may even earn a backrub later.

A Little Direction

If you’re going to drive with me, you must be able to read a map. The reason? Well, because I’m only so-so at it, and I need someone who knows what they’re doing up front. Nothing kills a trip’s momentum faster than going 25 miles in the wrong direction. Things can get pretty chilly in the cockpit after that – downright nippy. Co-pilots must be navigators, plain and simple. Drivers can’t be expected to both drive with two hands and re-check their routes on that wrinkly, foldout map on their lap. Nope, too dangerous. Whether you bring along a globe, download directions off the Internet, or just have a natural ability to always know where to go, fine, whatever. Just don’t be shy about it. And when off the interstate, a co-pilot’s job isn’t done. We need still need plenty of help finding those elusive campgrounds, the closest grocery store, or the World’s Largest Ball of Twine exhibit we’ve come all this way to see.

That’s Entertainment

The travel brochures didn’t tell you that there’d be lots of lonely miles on this trip. Face it, things can get pretty boring sometimes, which is why you might find drivers lost in a daydream, usually involving hitting the game-winning home run in the World Series. Take your cue, it’s ShowTime. There’s nothing I like more than someone riding shotgun who can spew forth a constant stream of interesting stories. Come on, you’ve got a million of them, so share. Co-pilots should think of themselves like Julie from the “Love Boat,” the ever-dutiful social chair of the high seas. Melt the miles by picking up some new music for the travels. Initiative the “What would you do with a million dollars” game (one of my favorites) or think up a few challenging word games. Just nothing too distracting, we still need to concentrate on driving.

Trouble-Shooter

When my wife and I hit the road, one of us is usually pretty busy onboard. You see, we’re the forgetful types, which usually means she’s running around closing left-open cabinets, stowing fallen items, or scurrying around for toll money as we go. One trip had our entryway door fly open just after bags of groceries tumbled throughout the coach. Did I mention that I left two lawn chairs back at the campsite? But enough about me and my follies. A co-pilot is the ultimate troubleshooter onboard. If something falls, breaks, or starts acting up, he or she is the first one to address the problem. That’s why I like someone to my right with a little mechanical aptitude, some ingenuity, and lots of duct tape at their disposals. And they should have lots of loose change.

Leave the Driving to Us

Some drivers fold during crunch-time like a game of three card Monte in Times Square. Despite the fact that you did indeed tell us to take the off-ramp two miles ago, we just couldn’t pull the trigger. We’ll chalk it off to highway hypnosis. Instead of reprimanding us, help us re-route, orient us to our new surroundings, make lemonade out of lemons, just don’t yell. Mistakes happen, so let ‘em slide. And don’t drive from the co-pilot chair or bark orders about passing the state trooper who’s only going the speed limit. Don’t harp, lecture, or belabor the obvious, like the fact that we don’t listen (Did you say something?) Yelling only works for football coaches and drill sergeants, so keep things civil. Arguing and second-guessing creates an anxious state, which is lousy when you have a 15,000-pound trailer in tow. RVing is supposed to be fun, remember?

The Controlling Type

When I’m white-knuckling a 40-footer through city traffic, I need every one of my paltry brain cells hard at work. Granted, it’s not much, but it’s all I have left after college. As for my dutiful sidekick? I’m hoping he or she can just sort of take care of everything else. Maintain the temperature controls, find a good song on the radio, hold my hand when I start to cry, that sort of thing. Believe me, I can get pretty whiny when things start going sour on a trip. Where’s the money for tolls? I can’t find my sunglasses? Somebody get this dog off my lap or we’re going to crash! That sort of thing.

Be There

Even though you’re close enough to hold hands, some co-pilots don’t seem to be apart of things. They’re writing the Great American Novel, polishing off that six-foot hoagie, or awash in their own little world. Certainly, some down time is a good thing, but hey, it gets lonely talking to the steering wheel all day. Just because your spouse drives all day doesn’t mean they want all the responsibility. One of the best things a co-pilot can do is get involved. Not only in the pro-active manners we’ve already discussed, put by taking an active part in other aspects of the trip, such as planning the itinerary, choosing the campground, or hoping out and asking for directions. Don’t vanish during the tough times, like during harried traffic or when bad weather kicks in. Throw a little moral support our way, offer insights and recommendations to bail us out of trouble, and keep spirits up when the driver’s confidence begins to wane.

Take the Helm

Remember, we’re in this together. Driver and passenger are a king of tag-team of sorts, helping alleviate the challenges of life on the road. Couples who rely on one person to do all the driving are asking for trouble. What if the driver gets sick or injured? Who will get the motorhome or travel trailer back home? Sadly, this sort of thing does indeed happen – and not just to the next guy. Co-pilots may prefer to sit out the majority of the driving duties, but they should know how to operate the RV as well as their counterparts. Sharing the driving duties leaves partners refreshed, which leads to better awareness behind the wheel. Couples who switch roles make better time, enjoy safer travels, and have more energy upon arrival.

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